Voices In My Heart

It was the first day of census and all through the land
each pollster was ready... a black book in hand.

He mounted his horse for a long dusty ride,
his books and his quills were tucked close by his side.

A hot, tiring ride down a road barely there,
toward the smell of fresh bread wafting up through the air.
The woman was tired, with lines on her face
and wisps of brown hair that she tucked into place.

She gave him some water as they sat at the table
and she answered his questions as best she was able.
He asked her of children. Yes, she had quite a few.
The oldest was twenty, the youngest, not two.

She held up a toddler with cheeks round and red.
His sister, she whispered, was napping in bed.
She noted each person who lived there with pride
and felt the faint stirrings of the wee one inside.

He noted the sex, the color, the birth date, the age,
the marks from the quill soon filled up the page.
At the number of children, she nodded her head
and he saw her lips quiver for the ones that were dead.

The places of birth she "never forgot"...
Was it Carolina, or Tennessee, or Georgia... or not?
They came from Scotland, on that she was clear,
But she wasn't quite sure just how long they'd been here.

They spoke of employment, of schooling and such.
They could read some and write some...though really not much.
When the questions were answered, his job there was done,
so he mounted his horse and rode into the sun.

We can almost imagine his voice loud and clear,
"May God bless you all for another ten years."

Now picture a time's now you and me
as we search for the people on our family tree.

We squint at the census, and scroll down so slow,
as we search for that entry from long, long ago.
Could they only imagine on that long-ago day
that the entries they made would affect us this way.

If they knew, would they wonder at the yearning we feel
and the searching that makes them increasingly real?
We can hear if we listen, the words they impart,
through their blood in our veins and their voice in our heart.

With thanks to the author, Darlene Stevens

Dear Ancestor:

Your tombstone stands among the rest,
neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiselled out
on polished, marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care;
it is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I'd exist;
you died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
in flesh, in blood, in bone;
our blood contracts and beats a pulse
entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
so many years ago
spreads out among the ones you left
who would have loved you so.
I wonder how you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find
this spot,
and come to visit you.

By unknown author

I Do Not Sleep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the autumn's gentle rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

By unknown author